June 2, 2019
Exploring Faith Together
Mark 9.22b-24 and John 17:20-26
What do you consider to be primary purposes of local churches?
The members of the confirmation class this year—Liam, Holly & Erin have been raised here in this church since they were baptized. Clearly, a primary purpose of the church is to nurture children into life-long faith. Erin, Holly and Liam understand that a main purpose of the church is to grow in Christ-like love.
Christ inspires us to practice love even when we feel slighted, put down, offended or ignored. Christ inspired us tooffer active love to those who are suffering, whether from physical, mental or emotional duress.
I am convinced that even the tirades that Jesus lobbed at the Pharisees and Sadducees were generated out of his love for them. Jesus often shouted at religious leaders. He even stooped to name calling, and yelled, “You brood of vipers” Mt 3.7, 12.34, 23.33, Lk 3.7] because he hoped such scorn would shake them out of their self-importance and their apathy towards suffering people around them. Christ-like love is not wimpy, though Jesus often showed tenderness and compassion. Part of being a church is practicing such powerful love and learning such tough and tender love from one another. Part of being a church is supporting one another in practicing tough love in the world. Christ calls us both as a congregation and or individually to demonstrate Christ-like love in situations where love is eclipsed by anger, mistrust or fear.
The German pastor, Dietrich Bonheoffer was so strong in his Christian faith and Christ-like love that he boldly resisted Adolf Hitler during WW 2. In Bonheoffer’s Confirmation Sermon in 1938, Bonheoffer addressed those being confirmed: “Every morning in your life the same prayer will be necessary. 'I believe, dear Lord, help my unbelief.' Today, when this congregation acknowledges you as adult members of the church, it expects that you understand that your faith must be your very own individual decision. The 'we believe' must now grow more and more into an 'I believe.' Faith is an [ongoing] decision.” [adapted] I’d like to echo that wise counsel: …
Jesus reached out with compassionate love for the father and his son who was plagued with seizures. Jesus’ love was never patronizing or condescending. Jesus always respected those in need—even if they were enemies of his people, lazy or prideful. Jesus offered love to those who were ostracized or ignored by others.
A recent comic shows Jesus gazing at his laptop searching social media posts in order to find people who especially need his blessings at the moment. Today, do we disparage instead of love people we do not like? How do we respond to people who are like lepers, corrupt tax collectors or Samaritan-like interlopers of our society? Do we respond to beggars with Christ-like love by listening to them, hearing their need and respecting them as our equals in God’s beloved family?
Are we humble enough to learn from those who are struggling? Jesus was open to having his worldview changed by a foreign woman who challenged his nationalism. That desperate woman goaded Jesus with the shock value of comparing herself to dogs who need to eat, too. What can we learn from recent immigrants?
As adult Christians, do we ignore or patronize young people, or do we share and learn from young Christians? Holly, Erin and Liam have much to teach us. Brittany and I who shared confirmation classes with them can testify to their insight and valuable questions. Conversations with young people can give us a valuable opportunity to explore faith together. We can learn from the worldview, insights and questions of young people. Exploring faith together is one of joys of being a church!
What did you hear in Jesus’ prayer shortly before his death? Did you hear his petitions for people throughout history—to our day—and beyond? Listen again to these excerpts: “As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us…. so that they may be one, as we are one… so that the world may know that you have sent me and love them even as you love me.”
What do you hear in Jesus’ prayer? I hear the power of God’s love in us.
I am excited about exploring that faith in the power of God’s love. Being together as a church is a precious opportunity to explore our faith together. The church offers the priceless opportunity to support and learn from one another, young, old, rich, poor, suffering, strong, musically gifted, or musically challenged. Each of us has special gifts and unique vulnerabilities and needs that call us to love one another as Christ loves us.
Holly, Erin and Liam—I hope you and everyone here are enthusiastic about exploring faith together in this congregation—together with both young and old and in between. Amen